When it comes to broadband, more is always better, right?
Alas, this is not always a given, as the leading service providers in advanced broadband markets have been learning.
With broadband access speeds racing past the 100Mbps rate, the skeletons are emerging from the Wi-Fi closet, with long-standing deficiencies in Wi-Fi networks now becoming exposed. In markets where broadband capacity remains lower than Wi-Fi throughput, the issues remain masked, but as service speeds increase, the problems are guaranteed to be revealed.
A large part of the challenge lies with the license-free spectrum used by Wi-Fi. Many traditional Wi-Fi implementations are deployed in hope for the best model, where service providers often felt that they either could not control or were not responsible for that aspect of the customer experience. As those first operators faced with these challenges quickly came to realise, taking an Ostrich approach, burying their head in the sand an hoping it would go away, typically results in rapid increases in customer complaints and churn rates.
It is increasingly evident that consumer experience of the broadband product is measured by the Wi-Fi experience. You only have to listen to the kids, they never say, “the broadband isn’t working” it’s always “the Wi-Fi isn’t working.”
Regardless of whether the Wi-Fi equipment is provided by the service provider or not, they receive the blame for the poor quality of experience. They suffer the very real pain of subscriber churn. The only way forward is for service providers to pro-actively manage this problem.
Management author and educator Peter Drucker is often quoted as saying that "you can't manage what you can't measure." Measurement is core to understanding the quality of experience your customers enjoy; however, this is only one part of the solution.
The RF environment is dynamic and constantly evolving. Having the ability to measure signal strength, interference levels, connection times, are all useful, but if human intervention is required to impact the necessary changes to improve user experience, operators will incur massive support cost increases. Advances in self-optimisation, machine learning, data analytics and artificial intelligence are all combining to deliver an automated approach to safeguarding your customer's Wi-Fi quality of experience.
Constant monitoring of channel utilisation, adjacent channel interference, non-Wi-Fi related interference, and steering clients toward the optimal spectrum, is a positive starting point. This, coupled with proactively offloading the more pervasive but lower capacity 2.4GHz channels and proactively directing sticky clients onto the the 5GHz channels where the available capacity can maximise the consumer experience is a good approach. Applying airtime fairness for those remaining on the 2.4GHz spectrum will ensure that the potential of this scarce spectrum is maximised, and not slowed to the performance of the slowest 802.11b users.
Given the prominent role that Wi-Fi takes in our consumers’ experience, it can frequently be incorrectly blamed for performance issues that emanate from other causes. Active monitoring of protocols like DHCP and DNS, and associated response times, as well as performance of real-time traffic like voice and video, can help to quickly ascertain whether the problem is Wi-Fi related or an issue elsewhere.
At ADTRAN, we have enhanced our portfolio of residential and enterprise managed Wi-Fi offerings so we can place operators in the driving seat. Providing deep, real-time insights into the actual quality of experience their users, through automated interfaces. Operators can automatically set about making improvements, long before their customers begin to experience difficulties. But this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential that these insights can provide. Knowing which customers are exhausting their current broadband capacity, opens the door for targeted up-selling. Understanding which customers are accessing more capacity than they have contracted for, reduces revenue leakage, while identifying which customers cannot achieve what they paid for, facilitates targeted intervention to help minimise churn.
This challenge is one that is going to be faced by every operator in the world as their service offerings approach and exceed 100Mbps. The time to start planning for this challenge is now, and not when you have already invested heavily in marketing your new ultrafast service offerings, only to discover that disgruntled customers are undermining your efforts by complaining about poor experiences on social media.
Learn more at www.adtran.com/subscriberexperience
The global market for FTTH has never been hotter. With multiple large-scale parallel builds occurring across Europe, the United States, and the APAC region, the collective production capacities of the industry are coming under pressure. Thankfully this situation is temporary as most of the producers of passive raw materials have begun their investments in new production facilities, which should begin coming online over the next 12 months.
With such high levels of fibre build, many of the operators driving this demand face competition from an increasing number of sources. Times were already challenging when the combination of over-the-top and fixed broadband alternatives represented the competitive landscape. This is now being further compounded by competitive threats emerging from 5G mobile, mmWave fixed wireless, and even emerging low earth orbit satellite solutions, all positioning themselves as future options for the Gigabit Society.
As the final implementation of the EU Commission’s Electronic Communications Code approaches completion, the stated performance characteristics that it calls for, make it clear that Europe is quickly going to follow regions like North America and APAC as a Gigabit-focused, fibre-based market.
When operators light new fibre optic distribution networks (ODNs), they need to take some things into consideration. If one considers that regardless of the PON technology used to light the fibre, the cost of the ODN for all practical purposes remains the same. The primary variables that operators then face when lighting these ODNs are the combination of vendor selection, access network architecture and PON access technology. While substantial differences exist in the vendor community regarding legacy vs. next-generation access architectures, I will keep the focus of this quarter’s insights on the PON access technology decision.
If one calculates the cost of lighting ODNs with GPON vs. 10G symmetric XGS-PON for consumer services, it is easy to form an opinion that the XGS-PONs cost structure is less competitive. However, when we factor in that we are facing into a future where competition will be based on Gigabit service offerings in the coming 24 months, it is impossible to ignore the capacity limitations that exist with GPON. Incapable of credible symmetric service offerings, GPON will face challenges coping with the increasing demand for upstream capacity stemming from application cloudification, live-streaming, cloud- augmented consumer devices (Alexa etc.) and increasing levels of smart surveillance (Nest etc.). Without question, GPON as a technology will be limited in the number of Gigabit services an operator can confidently sell on each ODN, resulting in these services being commercially targeted solely toward lead users, rather than the mass market. This is fine so long as a mass market focused gigabit offering does not materialize from the wealth of other potential sources.
Taking into account the total cost of ownership (TCO) of both GPON and XGS-PON technologies over five years, and in particular, if you factor in very modest churn levels due to GPON’s inability to lead with Gigabit services as a mass-market offering, it becomes abundantly clear that XGS-PON will provide a much greater return on investment (ROI). Using churn rates as low as one percent, the revenue lost throughout that five-year ROI period, due to subscriber loss to low-cost competitive gigabit service offerings, eclipse the modest CAPEX uplift that operators face when deploying XGS-PON today. This benefit is further improved when one factors the forecasts from organisations like OVUM where they predict that the scale economies that accrue to being the market’s leading technology by volume will tip from GPON to XGS-PON in the coming 24 months.
When is the right time to change from GPON? The time is now. For all new ODNs, premature replacement of OLT and ONT estates will be avoided for those selecting XGS-PON. Average revenue per user preservation and even uplift will be possible with XGS-PON in the coming years, where GPON will increasingly be challenged to keep up.
Learn more about ADTRAN’s XGS-PON offerings at www.adtran.com/10G
Traditionally the preserve of those on the wrong side of the digital divide, Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) is changing. Massive R&D investments have seen the capacities achievable with this mode of delivery explode in recent years. Innovations in modulation techniques, error-correction mechanisms, and multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO) implementations see the robustness and throughputs achievable with FWA elevate to levels historically only possible with fixed broadband solutions. These modern designs have evolved to deliver Gigabit potential for both backhaul and access implementations, while also offering consumer-priced, ultrafast 100Mbps services over longer distances. For many service providers seeking to accelerate the extension of their serving areas, these solutions can provide some much-needed differentiation in their respective markets.
With primary multi-point innovation focus areas being spread across a mix of licensed and license-free spectrums, at sub 6GHz, 28GHz, and V band 60GHz, it is understandable that confusion can occur about what is the right solution to deploy in which circumstance, particularly when some of the solutions can work for both access and backhaul applications.
In the role of 100Mbs service delivery, targeted at price points that consumers can bear, the sub 6GHz technologies are providing a compelling option for operators to overbuild long-loop copper network offerings. When deployed in combination with 28GHz for backhaul purposes, communities can be rapidly connected to a self-optimising, self-healing wireless infrastructure that can reliably deliver an ultrafast broadband experience. The protection of licensed spectrum on the backhaul links further augments the robustness of the solution, while a license-free access implementation ensures that the total cost per subscriber remains competitive.
For Gigabit services, both for enterprise and consumer, FWA accelerates connection times and avoids delays that can be incurred due to frozen ground, planning permissions, and fibre resource supply. With 28GHz self-optimising radios, the alignment skills of the installation crews are significantly reduced, facilitating more installation capacity alongside faster deployments. Capable of avoiding interference, operators and enterprises alike can enjoy a level of robustness previously not possible with FWA solutions.
Consumers are frequently focused on a combination of the cost of service and the discretion of the wireless solutions located on their premises. This is where the latest 60GHz solutions have come into their own. Gigabit-ready solutions, targeted as PON alternatives, can comfortably deliver Gigabit service rates to consumers via a discrete solution smaller than a 1-litre milk carton, and at a price point that many fixed-access technologies will be challenged to meet.
The gigabit race is on; the question is who can get to the consumer first. The role of FWA is clear; it permits operators to stand out, while others are left waiting for things that are frequently outside their control.
Learn more about ADTRAN’s FWA offerings at www.adtran.com/5G